Uncovering the spatial dynamics of wild rice lakes, harvesters and management across Great Lakes landscapes for shared regional conservation

Journal or Book Title: Ecological Modelling

Keywords: socio-ecological systems; coupled human-nature systems; spatial narratives; sustainable resource management; ecosystem services; harvest patterns

Volume/Issue: 229/March 24, 2012

Page Number(s): 97-107

Year Published: 2012


Sustainable conservation and management of valued resources and ecosystem services relies on understanding the dynamics of the socio-ecological system. In the case of wild rice, a cherished food resource of Northern Great Lakes landscapes, the dynamics involve (a) a changing distribution of wild rice lakes, (b) changing harvester population and demographics, and (c) different management overlays. Together these factors influence harvester choices and opportunities and create unexpected spatial dynamics between people and the lakes they harvest. In this paper we examine first, the regional distribution and characteristics of wild rice lakes through compilation of multi-agency data, geospatial analysis, license sales and harvest surveys. Second, we identify patterns of harvest in the region through six case study lakes and examine the decision-making models used to open lakes for harvest. Gathered together these various forms of knowledge and collected data sets inform our understanding of the social–ecological systems involving wild rice (Zizania palustris). Watersheds with wild rice have declined by 32% since the early 1900s, and are now primarily limited to northern Minnesota and Wisconsin. Across case studies wild rice harvesters tend to gather wild rice close to where they live or learned to harvest and 50% have more than 20 years experience. Some wild rice lakes draw harvesters from greater distances and in higher numbers. Models for managing the harvest of wild rice range from ‘gather when ripe’ by state entities to a more hands-on posting by reservation committees specifying hours and days of harvest on a lake by lake basis. The social–ecological system around wild rice is a complex mosaic of multiple management jurisdictions, culturally diverse people, and an ecological system that is not well understood and potentially declining in extent. Defining the context of harvest within the spatially connected landscape and across multiple management systems is a first step in developing a shared framework of governance for the sustainability of wild rice landscapes.

DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolmodel.2011.09.015

Type of Publication: Journal Article

Publisher: Elsevier